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Stanford Schooling – Gratis!

Stanford professor Daphne Koller

Stanford computer science Professor Daphne Koller opened her online class on probabilistic graphical models, previously available only within Stanford, to the public in January.

Credit: Steve Fyffe / Stanford News Service

Stanford University's experiment with online classes could help transform computer science education.

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i applaud the wide dissemination of knowledge that the internet makes possible, and to the efforts of MIT and Stanford to make their course materials openly available to the general public. but i take major issue with issuing certificates of any kind, and with claims that there is any real judgment being made as to "assessment of achievement". what significant assessment can be done when you have 25,000 students submitting homeworks, or taking exams? if you wish to claim that a computer-gradable exam or homework assignment can accurately measure mastery in databases or AI, i beg to differ. maybe i am old-fashioned, but i have taught mathematics and computer science at universities for 40 years, and have yet to compose an assessment tool that doesn't require REAL WORK on my part both before and after the exam or homework submission. short answer and multiple choice exams just do not do the job in any course worth its salt!


Yeah, 93% attrition counts as a success for a which world?? And for the 7% who completed the course...will any machine learning company hire them to develop there software?

Like the previous commentator said, it is nice to have the exposure available to the masses, but the claims made by Prof. Koller are WAY off base!

Chad Colgur

In response to the professor commenting on 23-Feb:

I don't see any claim that "[...] computer-gradable exam or homework assignment can accurately measure mastery in databases or AI [...]" in this article. In fact, if you take a little time to read about the proposed certification process associated with MITx (which, by the way, is the only institution talking about objective assessment rather than a simple statement of completion), then you will see that it is (1) fee-based, and (2) in-person/on-site.

Can you really say that you haven't had a single multiple-choice/right-wrong/yes-no question in any of your course material over the years? Sure, that may only be a small part of your assessment process, but I dare say that it must play a part.

I think it is more productive to think of this format as a start for would-be students. It lowers the barrier to entry. A motivated, self-directed learner like myself receives orientation on a topic that might otherwise be difficult to approach. A student interested enough in a topic to enrol will be able to make a more informed decision about pursuing any given topic further after one of these courses. I believe that is the true value of the format.


I took the machine learning course last year and am taking the PGM course now. I really appreciate the professors' effort to make the courses available online for all to take. It helps with my current job.

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